Research Commercialisation and the Humanities – Part 2 (Curriculum)

Hello Again,

As promised, here is the second installment on my three part series on my experiences in the world of research commercialisation. The spell-checker is telling me to put a ‘z’ in the word, but I will not bow down to your US English fascism WordPress!

I have enrolled myself in four units for this course: Research and Global Sustainability, Knowledge Transfer and Research Commercialisation, Leadership and Workplace Communication and Project Management for Research. I will take a little time to discuss each of these units in turn:

1.  Research and Global Sustainability

I chose this unit as an elective out of curiosity and because, to be honest, it sounded interesting. A good friend of mine took a petroleum engineering unit in the last year of an Arts/Commerce degree ‘for lolz’ as he put it. He then got into interviews for a government department, and they asked him to write an essay about oil prices. Serendipity? I’d say so! On a similar note, I decided that doing a sustainability unit might come in handy some day.

The unit turned out to be really interesting, covering a lot of the sociological, economic, and political theory of sustainability. The first week focused on the history of sustainability resolutions, and the problem of defining it. Definitions such as ‘enough for all, forever’ have been put forward, but what does this mean? This is quite apt, for I think that coming to terms with sustainability will be crucial over the next few decades.

The unit has a secondary focus on using one’s understanding of sustainability in order to create ethical projects, and projects that will predict future changes in the way that we consume. The unit has recently focused on the notion of ‘human capital’, or the type of wealth that you get by simultaneously supporting economic, environmental and social capital. We have also focused on sociological concepts such as Fricker’s article on The Ethics of Enough and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the political and ethical foundations of different theories of sustainability. I feel now that if I ever get stuck in a meeting in which sustainability comes up (which no doubt I will one day), I will be able to deal with it as a philosophical, political and moral concept rather than simply a buzz word.

2. Knowledge Transfer and Research Commercialisation

This is the core unit of the course, and focuses on channeling, incubating, financing, planning and presenting research as a commercial product. The unit is very much meta-structural in nature, focusing on different forms of knowledge transfer (relationships with industry, training, publication etc) and how they work. It also focused recently on the differences between Arts style research, and the Sciences.The units has also covered intellectual property regimes (patent, copyright etc) and small business models.

The purpose of the unit, as far as I can see, is to prepare students to set themselves and their research up as a potential commercial product, to find people willing to finance the project, and to perform, for want of a better term, midwifery of commerce. It has been interesting in that it has focused on the marketing, commercial and business dimensions of research. This is very interesting, because everything that the unit teaches can be used for non-commercial capital gathering in the form of government or industry funding. In a world where money is hard to come by, it is possible to create research projects that are designed in such a way that they create pure research of scholarly and disciplinary value (what we do anyway), but also attract money. This can result in cool outcomes, the limits of which are defined only by one’s imagination.

3.  Leadership and Workplace Communication

This unit has proved to be quite interesting, for several reasons. We have covered a wide range of subjects including ideas of what a leader is, leaders in a workplace, conflict resolution, brain science that affects our reaction to leaders or followers, presentation skills, and more. I have found this unit particularly interesting, because it has allowed me to read through the literature on leadership and management theory, which I will find useful in the future.

We have been completing a module of the unit based around communication skills, which was great. We had to give a talk on our research to our peers based on some readings on presentation style, watch ourselves on video, and reflect on our performance. We also received feedback from our audience, and used this to reflect on our presentation style. I found the whole thing really rewarding

We recently had a ‘meet the leaders’ session in which two senior academics with long and illustrious backgrounds came and talked to us about their experiences. It was really interesting to listen to. One was a pioneer in equal pay for women in the Australian business sector and the former Dean of the Curtin business school, and the other was an economist and Philosopher who has developed a program of teaching ethics and critical thinking to school children.

In the final section of the unit, we will be interviewing a leader that we admire. I have chosen my supervisor, who has recently become the director of a brand new multi-million dollar centre here at our university. I think that it is an amazing opportunity. She is my academic mentor and hero, and I look forward to the opportunity to interview her about her leadership experiences.

4. Project Management and Research

This unit’s title kind of speaks for itself. The content is kind of dry, but it is very useful. The coordinator is really great and makes the unit interesting. We are learning about how to write a project description with value statements, deliverables, project lifecycle etc. and a project plan with risk management, costing, procurement, etc. It is kind of dull to complete, but I am developing a certain sense of pride in my growing project. One can imagine that it would be very easy to sell an idea in this format. This is important, because this is basically what university funding types do: they assess the viability of your project and either give you a go ahead or a no-go.

In my third and final post, I will reflect upon how I think what i’ve learned in this graduate certificate might help me in the future.

Bye for now!

James

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